Abstract: Professionalization Meets Public Policy: How the Urban Land Institute Shaped Urban Renewal

Sara Stevens


Established in 1940 by a group of real estate developers from the National Association of Real Estate Boards, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) was conceived as a non-profit organization offering expert advice to an industry too ad-hoc in its operations. Its founders were mostly builders of suburban single-family residential neighborhoods, and its publications disseminated to a broader public the lessons learned in the suburbs. These suburban patterns, codified as recommendations from the experts of the ULI, later appeared in urban renewal projects from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. Documents from the archives of its parent organization, the National Association of Real Estate Boards, and the individual founders, as well as the group's publications form the basis of this paper. This research is part of a growing body of work on professionalization and on the history of real estate development. Studying the history of a professional organization like the ULI not only illuminate the business of building American cities, but also open an avenue for interacting with larger questions of policy and professionalization.